Fender Bender Offender
If you have been watching the news lately, you know that the recent cold and icy weather in a lot of our country has led to accidents all over the roads. From negligent driving to simple black ice, plenty of scenarios can lead to an accident when the weather and temperatures are as they have been recently. Needless to say, rear-end accidents have risen these past few weeks. So, who is to blame? The obvious causes come to everyone's mind, i.e., the "texter", the "text reader", or the tired person. What if you hit the brakes with plenty of time to spare but slide on ice right into the car in front? What about the car that hits the brakes for no reason?
Unfortunately, in all these scenarios you have an uphill battle to fight. In Maryland, there is a presumption of negligence when a driver rear ends another. The judge or jury can assume it was the rear-enders fault from the start and it would be that person's job to convince otherwise. The reason behind this comes from basic training of a driver. When on the road, you must leave a safe following distance between you and the car in front to adjust for road hazards and unexpected situations, including the car in front of you slamming on the brakes. There are guidelines for safe distances depending on the condition, but there are no set requirements and it is up to the driver to use his or her judgment to avoid any and all accidents. Maryland Law describes the distance only as reasonable and prudent. The distance obviously will change depending on the speed; the traffic; whether there is rain, snow, or ice on the road. If you end up rear ending someone, it can be presumed that you weren't keeping a safe distance to avoid an accident. The data supports this, as studies have shown that the majority of rear-end accidents are caused by those following too closely behind.
So how do you argue against the presumption? One possibility is to show your car was not moving. The car in front going in reverse should definitely defeat this presumption. Often a driver abruptly cuts in front of another car and an accident ensues before the trailing driver has the ability to create a reasonable and prudent distance between the cars. Even the car's sudden stop could be an argument, but you would have to show that the stop was so quick, unnecessary, and negligent that there was no possible way of avoiding an accident even when at a reasonable and prudent distance. In Maryland, you need only point out that the driver in front contributed to the accident. Rather than transferring all the blame, you need only look to share it to avoid responsibility.
One of the trickiest rear-end situations is in a chain reaction collision. Several cars can be involved in a collision, making it unclear who hit whom, what sequence occurred in the collision, and who, if any, acted negligently. In basic chain reaction, if a third vehicle hits a second into the first, the third would be presumed to be responsible for both cars. However, the first driver can cover all its bases by making a claim against both vehicles and let them figure it out.
In order to figure the situation out, there are a few things that can help establish which cars are responsible, how the events unfolded, and whether there were any negligent parties involved. These include:
- Witnesses to the accident
- The police report and findings from investigation of the accident
- The damage to all vehicles
- Other evidence that can be gathered at the scene
- Any health conditions and statements of the of drivers
Fred Antenberg is a Columbia Personal Injury attorney working with clients throughout Maryland. He has years' of experience with motor vehicle accident cases. Contact Fred regarding your car accident or any other issue for a FREE consultation at 410-730-4404.